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Five Activities on a Natural and Historic Tour of Nihn Bihn in Vietnamm

Ninh Binh, Vietnam is a hidden gem nestled in the northern part of the country. Known for its breathtaking landscapes and rich cultural heritage, it is often referred to as the "Halong Bay on land." This small province offers a unique blend of natural beauty and historical significance that captivates visitors from all over the world. We visited on a day tour of the Nihn Bihn region during our Hanoi Stay in Vietnam. It was a very unique experience during the tour. This article describes five activities that are generally a part of the Nihn Bihn Day Tour. 

A bridge en route the boat tour

1. A Trip of Hoa Lu - The Ancient Capital

Our Celebrity Posing in front of Hoa Lu Palace

Ninh Binh region boasts of a rich history dating back centuries. Hoa Lu, a city in this region, served as the capital of Vietnam in ancient times and served as Vietnam's political center during the Dinh and Le dynasties. Visiting Hoa Lu is like stepping back in time. The serene atmosphere and picturesque landscapes transport visitors to a bygone era. The surrounding limestone mountains add to the charm of this historical site, creating a breathtaking backdrop for exploration.

Hoa Lu Palace played a crucial role in shaping Vietnam's political landscape. It was here that Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang established his rule and united the country after centuries of division. The palace became a symbol of power and authority, showcasing the grandeur and sophistication of Vietnamese architecture at that time. The remnants of ancient palaces, temples, and pagodas provide insight into the lives of emperors and their royal courtiers. Intricate carvings on stone pillars depict scenes from mythology and historical events, reflecting the artistic prowess of ancient Vietnamese craftsmen.

This was our first stop on the day tour where the guide took us through the temples and other sections of the palace and narrated the story and history of the kingdom. It was definitely an enlightening experience. 

Vacation Mode On

2. Cycling amidst Nature

The tranquility that envelops Hoa Lu is best experienced on two wheels. The rhythmic sound of pedaling blends harmoniously with the gentle rustling of leaves, creating a symphony that soothes the soul. Cyclists can explore every nook and cranny, stopping whenever they please to admire intricate carvings or simply take in the awe-inspiring vistas. While most tourists opt for traditional means of transportation, cycling through this historic site offers a unique and immersive experience. We of course travelled on a bus from Hanoi to Hoa Lu but opted for a cycle ride within the city. So we were dropped off from the bus at a location where we were provided the bicycles - they had ones with baby seats. 

Embarking on a cycling adventure through Hoa Lu allows visitors to appreciate the rich history and breathtaking landscapes at their own pace. As one pedals along the winding roads, they are transported back in time to an era when emperors ruled and dynasties flourished. The remnants of ancient temples and palaces stand as silent witnesses to centuries gone by. Moreover, cycling provides an eco-friendly alternative for exploring this historical site. By choosing this mode of transportation, visitors contribute to preserving the natural beauty and cultural heritage of Hoa Lu for future generations.

3. Row the Boat Through the Caves

One of Ninh Binh's most iconic attractions is the boating experience through the limestone caves. These caves were formed over millions of years by the erosion of the Ngo Dong River, creating a unique and enchanting landscape. Visitors can embark on a boat journey along the river, guided by local rowers who skillfully navigate through the caves. There is an option for visitors to either visit Tam Coc or Trang An. Both are equally beautiful and offer similar experiences barring a few weather-related variations and length of tunnels. We had opted for Tam Coc because of the time we were visiting the region. If you are visiting in April/May, Trang An will have the rice terraces in their full glory. 

We want to take you to the mesmerizing beauty

Lets Row the Boat

The Caves in Tam Coc are Mystic

As one glides through the crystal-clear waters, surrounded by towering limestone cliffs and vibrant flora, a sense of tranquility washes over them. The sheer beauty of Tam Coc is awe-inspiring; it feels like stepping into a painting or entering another world entirely. Tam Coc is also known as "Three Caves." The tranquility of this experience is unparalleled, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in nature's beauty. This natural wonder is famous for its stunning limestone karsts and serene waterways that wind through lush green rice fields.

Tam Coc also offers cultural experiences. The area is home to several ancient temples and pagodas that date back centuries. Visitors can immerse themselves in Vietnamese history and spirituality while exploring these sacred sites.

Temple within the Tam Coc

4. Hike to the Mua Caves for Mesmerizing Views

These caves are not only a natural wonder but also hold historical and cultural significance.

The Mua Caves are nestled amidst the picturesque landscape of limestone mountains and lush greenery. To reach the caves, one must climb up 500 steps to the peak of the mountain, which is an adventure in itself. The panoramic view from the top is simply awe-inspiring, with rice fields stretching as far as the eye can see.

Rains could not stop us from exploring

Once inside the caves, visitors are greeted with stunning stalactites and stalagmites that have formed over thousands of years. The intricate formations create a mystical atmosphere within the cave walls. The highlight of Mua Caves is undoubtedly the viewpoint at its summit. From here, one can witness nature's beauty at its finest - towering mountains, winding rivers, and vibrant vegetation.

Apart from its natural beauty, Mua Caves also hold historical significance. It is believed that this area served as a hiding place for Tran Dynasty soldiers during wartime. Visitors can explore remnants of ancient temples and pagodas that were built by these soldiers.

5. Enjoy a Local Vietnamese Meal

At the end of the tour before embarking on a return journey, they take you to a local Vietnamese Restaurant where they serve local cuisine in the restaurant. The meal is definitely filling and mouth-watering. They serve a buffet with adequate vegetarian options and a bunch of fruits. Especially our meal offering had a lot of mangoes and that was enough for a meal in itself. Overall a great meal to end the tour. 

Our coach ready to take us back

This is what we will miss from Nihn Bihn

Some Key Considerations

  • Choose between Trang An and Tam Coc based on the season you are visiting - April/May are ideal for Trang An
  • Be conscious of exerting climb up the mountain if you opt for the Mua Caves excursion included in the tour - the rest of the tour is tiring itself and we saw folks opting out of Mua Caves at the end (no return of additional fees)
  • Guides sometimes try to overboard the boats to save a boat here or there - be conscious of your comfort
  • These are remote areas with not a lot of shops or facilities - carry your essentials (medicines, snacks, water, etc.) with you
  • Opt for the cycle experience if you are confident to carry it through as the bus leaves you at a place and then you are stuck with the cycle

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